The Last Lion. Volume 1: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932

Manchester, William

Dell, 1984

p. 369

In upper class Victorian England, “no one shrank from self-indulgence, and all but a few disdained work. They played tennis and auction bridge, which was invented in 1904; they attended races, amateur theatricals, elaborate teas, private recitals, and on one occasion a private circus engaged by an imaginative host. Historian Vita Sackville-West (The Edwardians) quotes an elderly peeress who defended all this: ‘We lead the country, don’t we? People who lead deserve their privileges. What would happen to the country, I should like to know, if the people at the top enjoyed no leisure? What would happen to dressmakers, if you mother had not more pretty frocks?’ Then, defending the Victorian precept that ostentation was a form of altruism, the peeress added: ‘Besides, the country likes it. Don’t you make any mistake about that. People must have something to look up to. It’s good for ’em. Gives ’em an ideal. They don’t like to see a gentleman degrading himself.’”